The Trail to Dismal River



Book: The Trail to Dismal River

Author: Archie Joscelyn

Publisher: Avalon Books, 1975



Language level: 3

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 14 and up

Rating: *** 3 stars (FAIR)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Joscelyn, Archie.  The Trail to Dismal River (published in 1975 by Avalon Books, an imprint of Thomas Bouregy and Company Inc., 22 E. 60th St., New York City, NY  10022).  It is after the Civil War, and Keith Farnol is a young man who grew up on his parents’ farm in Texas.  However, an unscrupulous cattle baron named Hake Rydell basically stole the Farnol ranch and railroaded Keith to a five-year prison term on a false charge of rustling.  While Keith was incarcerated, his parents died.  When he was paroled he went back to see what had happened to his family’s place and was accosted by Hake’s brother Blaine who accidentally shot and killed himself in the ensuing fight.  So Keith decides to hightail it north through Kansas, across the Platte, and into the Dismal River area of Nebraska, where he comes to the community of Riverbend.

There Keith becomes foreman on the Birdseye spread run by Dena Raymond, a young widow woman, and her mother Mrs.McKinney.  He and Dena even begin to fall in love.  However, he finds that Hake Rydell has finally been run out of Texas and, seeking new country to conquer, has also come to Dismal River country with his herds following behind him.  Hake sets his sights on Dena as well.  Will the residents of Riverbend unite to stand against Rydell?  Or will he be able to take control of the region?  And what will happen to Keith and Dena?   Archie Lynn Joscelyn (1899-1986) was an author of hundreds of western novels and stories published under his name and several pseudonyms, such as A.A. Archer, Al Cody, Tex Holt, Evelyn McKenna, and Lynn Westland, which have provided a valuable glimpse into this country’s western heritage as well as many hours of enjoyable reading for people around the world.

The Trail to Dismal River is one of a series of “Avalon Westerns” published by Avalon Books.  It is marked “Young Adult Western Fiction.”  As one might expect in any typical Western, there are some detailed descriptions of fighting and killing, though nothing overly graphic, and references to tobacco use.  A bit of cursing is found with the “d” and “h” words, as my experience with young adult Western fiction of this period tells me was common, but amazingly enough no profanity or taking the Lord’s name in vain.  The plot involves an interesting story that easily holds one’s attention with a surprise twist at the end.  Other books by Archie Joscelyn include Gunman, Empty Holsters, Dallas, Ride to Blizzard, West of Sundown, and The Coming of the Gunman.

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